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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

City eyes increased enforcement as Lime scooters return

A Lime scooter rider crosses Spokane Falls Boulevard at Howard with pedestrians, Monday, May 13, 2019, in Spokane,Wash. Dan Pelle/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

A Lime scooter parked carelessly in the center of a sidewalk could soon cost its rider $15.

With Lime scooters set to return to city streets – and to the chagrin of many, sidewalks – next week, the city of Spokane is considering action that would make it easier to fine people who use them improperly.

As it enters the second year of its shared mobility program, city officials introduced a slate of proposed changes to the city’s contract with Lime and city laws that govern the use of scooters and bicycles on Monday.

In both cases, the goal would be to ratchet up enforcement in response to persistent complaints about scooters illegally cruising down sidewalks and being abandoned in places that obstruct pedestrian walkways.

“We’ve done the carrot – we’ve done education, we’ve done Lime Patrol, and we’ve done all these things to encourage people to act right. Now we’re providing the stick, which is a fine through their user account when they park improperly,” said Colin Quinn-Hurst, city’s pedestrian and bicycle planner.

The changes were briefed to the Spokane City Council’s Urban Experience Committee on Monday.

Since their introduction on a pilot basis in 2018, Lime’s electric scooters and bicycles have been wildly popular in Spokane, but officials have acknowledged they’re often used improperly. An in-person survey of traffic by city staff at the corner of Howard Street and Main Avenue last year found more scooters illegally riding on the sidewalk than on the road, where they are meant to be used.

Scooters and bicycles are not allowed on downtown sidewalks. Riders must be at least 18 years old, and scooters and bicycles must be parked in a way that leaves sidewalks clear.

The city has used revenue from the shared mobility program to install signage and designate scooter parking areas. The company also launched Lime Patrol, sending employees onto city streets to notify people of infractions and correct their behavior.

Entering its second year of a two-year contract with Lime, city officials propose adding a new section that would require the company to tag each scooter with an identification number. City code enforcement officers would document parking violations via a time-stamped photograph and charge Lime $15 for each infraction. The company would pass on the fine to the user.

The city will require Lime to suspend the account of any user who violates the rules three times in a year.

Quinn-Hurst also proposed changes to city code that will clarify what behaviors are not allowed on sidewalks, where the devices are outright banned on sidewalks, and where they should be parked. That information will now all be a part of the same section of city code “that police can reference,” Quinn-Hurst said.

People who violate the city code by riding on a sidewalk improperly face a potential fine of $118, Quinn-Hurst said.

Councilwoman Lori Kinnear pressed for enforcement on underage riders, and suggested signage.

“Last year, clearly there were 12-year-olds,” Kinnear said.

Councilwoman Kate Burke noted that two people regularly “double-up” on a single scooter, a violation of the rules.

“I just look away because I don’t want to watch them fall,” Burke said.

Quinn-Hurst acknowledged that many users are aware of the ban on sidewalk riding, but simply feel unsafe in the street. He suggested diverting more of the program revenue – the city collected about $90,000 in user fees in 2019 – into city infrastructure like bike lanes.

“Whether we call them bike lanes or not anymore is a question,” Quinn-Hurst said.

The city also is proposing a contract amendment that would reduce the number of bicycles Lime is required to maintain in the city from 100 to 50. The remaining bicycles would be concentrated in downtown and the University District, where they are most used.

Last year, bicycles were not well used and difficult to maintain, according to Quinn-Hurst.

Both the changes to city code and the Lime contract would require the City Council’s approval, but they are not yet on the council’s agenda.